3 Ways You May Have Removed God From Your Ministry

Ryan Sebastian
February 23rd, 2021

A question that I have been asking myself over the last year is, “What is missing in my youth ministry?” I have read all the youth ministry and leadership books that I can get my hands on, listened to hundreds of podcasts, and have been to many conferences, but this nagging part of my soul kept showing up, telling me that I am missing something. This last year has been filled with self-doubt in my abilities as a youth leader. Of course, I have done all the events, speaking series, props, lights, awesome worship, yet when I look across the room, I see students who are “having fun,” but not many are sold out for Christ.

Without knowing, God was also working on the heart of my lead pastor. As a staff, we went through a book called “Old Paths, New Power.” After spending time reading and prepping for a staff meeting, it was like God slapped me in the face and said: “Wake up!” After a long time of wondering what was missing in my youth ministry, I finally knew! What was missing was prayer and a deep longing for the Holy Spirit to move in my ministry. You may be reading this and might be thinking, “duh,” but take a moment and reflect on how much you spend alone with God in prayer. How much time do you spend with Him alone without distractions worshiping? How much time do you devote longing for the Holy Spirit to move in the lives of your students? 

Like many of you, I spend the majority of my time and effort in learning new programs and methods of youth ministry. The sad truth is that there has been little to no emphasis on prayer in all the books that I have read, podcasts that I listened to, and conferences that I have attended. Why is that? Have we removed our dependence on the Holy Spirit for the work of the ministry and relied on man’s abilities alone?

Man’s abilities can indeed bring large crowds of people. Just look at the pastors and Christian entertainers that have failed morally or left the faith altogether. They could draw a crowd. Events, programs, lights, smoke machines, and an incredible worship band are not bad things, but if they are not surrounded by prayer and the Holy Spirit’s reliance, they become utterly useless in producing disciples who disciple others.

Here are three ways that you may have removed God from your youth ministry.

Not spending time alone with God. 

As ministry leaders, we preach on how it is essential to have a consistent time alone with God. The problem is that most of us don’t practice it ourselves. Over the last few years, I have had the privilege to talk with youth leaders all over the county, and what I hear most often is the phrase “I am struggling.” This usually refers to their spiritual life or ministry. I typically respond with a question; “Are you spending time alone with God?” Quite often, the answer is no. How can we expect God to move in our life and ministry if we do not spend time with Him? How can we expect God to move in our ministry if we are not entirely relying on Him? If you want to see God move in your life and your ministry, maybe it’s time to prioritize your time with Him.

No emphasis on prayer in your ministry.

Most often, we see prayer as a side note to our ministry. We squeeze it at the end of a lesson or when we take “prayer requests.” We would all agree that prayer is essential, but how important is it in your ministry? Prayer is a form of worship and dependence on God, yet it is often neglected. What if we gathered our leaders and parents together each week before programming, asking the Holy Spirit to move? What if your student leaders consistently gathered to pray over their youth ministry? 

Too focused on programming.

Programming is one of the most enjoyable aspects of youth ministry. I enjoy planning the night with games, props, inspiring messages, and worship. Over time I became really efficient at producing a great program, but I was consumed with it. You see, I did not allow any time for God to move. I was so concerned about doing all the “stuff” in a certain period of time that I did not allow any room for anything else. I am ashamed to admit, but I did not allow time for students to talk with adults if they wanted to give their life to Christ. I was so consumed with having fun and me being at the center stage that there was no time for students to talk with leaders about their faith. Relying on a program became more important than relying on God.

Now ask yourself, has your youth ministry removed God?

Ryan Sebastian

Ryan is the Student Pastor at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton, North Carolina, and has served in youth ministry roles for over a decade. He also is the co-host of the Youth and Culture podcast, which provides content to help youth leaders succeed in their ministries. Ryan’s heart and passion are to see student’s lives changed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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